Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: Far From the War

"Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d'etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war."

  • Publisher: Roche Harbor Books
  • Release Date: Sept. 17, 2011
  • Number of pages: 366
  • Would recommend to: People who enjoy politics, young readers looking for a unique topic, military brats
Favorite Quotes:
“It was as if the city were on pause, stopping to commemorate some important moment in ritualistic silence, taking a breath. This moment of silence, this moment devoid of man made things, ended as it had to, and restored to the city its usual soundtrack of shouts and machines.”
“It’s an odd thing when the vision for one’s life collapses, when a dream dies. Those who’ve never had dreams might imagine it to consist of despair, depression and prolonged bouts of purgative weeping. The death of a dream is, in fact, far less dramatic. It consists of a sudden feeling of foolishness and embarrassment, a sense of being childish, usually recognized by the dreamer as maturation rather than capitulation.”
“With the glare out of her eyes, she could finally read the officer’s name. It was something heavily laden with consonants and unpronounceable, a telemarketer’s nightmare, Polish or Russian maybe.”
“’You never went to parties or anything?’ ‘Not those kinds of parties. I’m not sure why, but hanging out in the woods with a bunch of d-bags drinking cough syrup was just never my idea of a good time.’”
“’You show me a boy my own age that doesn’t waste half his life playing video games, and I’ll marry the bastard on the spot.’”
I went into Far From the War after a string of dystopians. I didn’t read much of the summary before I accepted the request. I knew it was set in the future and involved a second civil war in the U.S.
At first I was daunted; in the first hundred pages you have a lot about politics. It’s stuff the average person can understand. Couple that with Jeffrey David Payne’s very distinct writing style that is characterized by an expansive vocabulary, and I was more than intimidated.
With that being said, I adored this book and am really glad there are two more to come. The very serious subject of war made much of the text somber or tense, but I also was surprised with fun bits of humor laced in character dialogue.
I’ve not read anything like it before. As I said, Payne’s writing style is unique, not the typical YA that I’ve read. It’s descriptive in a refreshing way, the kind that illicited an “I never thought about it like that.” His nature descriptions were beautiful.  At times I was aware it was written by a male because it was different and more objective than anything I would ever think. It’s told in third person limited, focusing on Esther’s point of view. A compelling main character, she is very by-the-book when it comes to making a difference through politics, willing to work hard to advance. She had few friends back home but possesses a great wit, pulling sarcasm out of her pocket when needed. Esther lacks serious emotions until the war begins, and then, she keeps them in check to survive.
There is a great animosity that exists between the Democrat and Republican pages when Esther arrives in D.C., which is almost encouraged by the behavior of the adults in charge. The tensions foreshadow what is to become of the nation. Military rogue forces. Attacks on federal treasury buildings. Constant air assaults. A president in hiding. No one is safe as the war moves from the capital to the south and west; even civilians become desperate and barbaric.
Esther figures out what matters quickly; her friendships, and most of all, making it back to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington. Train delays, lack of cars to rent, grounded planes, and military barricades cause her journey home to turn into months instead of days. Along the way, she makes and loses friends, wanders through the wilderness near death, and must use a gun to protect herself from sex-deprived men and ruthless robbers.
The plot had several turns I didn’t anticipate. I enjoyed it when Esther accidentally reconnects with one of her former page friends in another state. At times it seemed impossible that she would ever see her parents again. Phone and e-mail communication with her parents is impossible, so she is on her own.
About two-thirds of the way through, I became completely absorbed with the story as Esther encounters romance with a boy (from McAlester, OK, which is near me!) who I wish I could meet in real life. It was nice that they had different backgrounds, money-wise, but none of that mattered to either of them, especially during wartime. I had wondered if any romance would be included at all, but it makes sense that Esther was focused on making it through one day to the next. The way the author described some of the scenes with them together may not have been as detailed as I usually like, but the scenes were still sweet and Esther-like.
I would recommend this book for the gorgeous writing style alone, but it is a book both boys and girls would enjoy because of its lasting impressions upon the mind. Instead of "Don't let history repeat itself," it's more like, "This is what could happen if we're not careful." 

*This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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